On Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) responded to the latest news about the Obama administration’s Russia investigation into the Trump campaign, which continued into Trump’s presidency. Cruz’s conclusions about the evolving ObamaGate scandal seemed to anger former Obama officials, at least one of whom called him a “pathetic liar.”
“Wow. Ongoing spying from an outgoing POTUS on the incoming POTUS—directed by Obama himself—is unprecedented in the 243 years of our nation’s history,” Cruz tweeted.
Wow. Ongoing spying from an outgoing POTUS on the incoming POTUS—directed by Obama himself—is unprecedented in the 243 years of our nation’s history. https://t.co/kgYE1sDHFv
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 19, 2020
The senator had retweeted Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist, who claimed that “newly declassified portions of a bizzare Inaugration Day e-mail Susan Rice wrote to herself confirm that the 2017 campaign to target Michael Flynn was coordinated by Obama and orchestrated within the Oval Office itself.”
The Rice email, partially declassified earlier, certainly suggests some nefarious scheming regarding the incoming administration. Rice’s decision to repeat the fact that Obama wanted things done “by the book” seems particularly shifty.
Former Obama officials attacked Cruz’s tweet.
“You are such a pathetic liar. Congrats on debasing yourself once again,” Tommy Vietor, Obama’s press van driver-turned-National Security Council spokesman, tweeted in response. Yes, that would be the same Tommy Vietor who called the spin around the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi (when the administration said a terror attack was a protest about a video) “the most mundane thing.”
You are such a pathetic liar. Congrats on debasing yourself once again.
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) May 19, 2020
Frank Fugliuzzi, assistant director of the FBI for counterintelligence from 2011 to 2012, responded with an op-ed from Marik von Rennenkampff, an Obama administration appointee at the Department of Defense. The former Obama official defended the Obama administration, claiming that Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden acted properly in investigating the Trump campaign and worrying about sharing information with the incoming administration. von Rennenkampff seizes on the very “by the book” comments that seem so shifty in Rice’s eleventh-hour email to herself, presenting them as evidence of Obama’s propriety.
— Frank Figliuzzi (@FrankFigliuzzi1) May 20, 2020
Ben Rhodes, a speechwriter who became Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speechwriting, also responded to Cruz’s tweet after President Donald Trump did.
“They got caught. Some very nervous criminals out there. Thank you Ted!” Trump tweeted. This tweet also did not sit well with former Obama officials.
“We’ve come a long way from when the conspiracy theory of the day was the Cruz family and the Kennedy assasination [sic],” Rhodes responded, condemning ObamaGate as a “conspiracy theory.”
We’ve come a long way from when the conspiracy theory of the day was the Cruz family and the Kennedy assasination. https://t.co/uyYJe6Rnbu
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) May 20, 2020
When The New York Times profiled Rhodes, it called him “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru.” Rhodes worked double-time to sell the disastrous Iran Deal, and now it seems he has turned to covering for his former boss.
Cruz responded to Vietor and other former Obama officials by pointing out their defensiveness. “Obama bros are all simultaneously attacking this tweet, using near identical language (Vietor manages to avoid expletives.),” the senator tweeted. “It’s curious, running screaming away from the crime scene doesn’t typically convey calm or innocence.”
Obama bros are all simultaneously attacking this tweet, using near identical language (Lockhart manages to avoid expletives.). It’s curious, running screaming away from the crime scene doesn’t typically convey calm or innocence. https://t.co/f18o4MGi6A
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 20, 2020
There remain many unanswered questions about the Obama administration’s surveillance of the Trump campaign. Obama veterans can claim the president did everything “by the book” until they are blue in the face, but that does not change the fact that transcripts of House Intelligence Committee testimony revealed that most of the intelligence actors in the investigation did not have any evidence to suspect collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The abuses against Flynn are also far from a conspiracy theory at this point — no matter how much Democrats apparently want to insist Flynn should be prosecuted for getting caught in a trap and being pressured to plead guilty in order to save his son from prosecution.
Obama officials are getting defensive because ObamaGate is real. It may not involve specific crimes that should be prosecuted, but it is nevertheless a scandal of historic proportions. Dismissing it as a conspiracy theory will not make it go away, but many on the left are far too invested in the narratives of a “scandal-free presidency” and Trump-Russia collusion to seriously consider the fact that the real scandal was Obama’s investigation all along.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.